Peacekeeping force for Bougainville
By Frank Enright
Mike Forster, the Bougainville Interim Government's United Nations representative, speaking in Sydney on May 27, welcomed the announcement of a South Pacific peacekeeping force for the island.
Forster was responding to media reports of private talks initiated by Papua New Guinea's deputy prime minister, Julius Chan, with regional leaders in an effort to break the deadlock in the five-year war. Prime Minister Paias Wingti was reported as supporting Chan's moves.
It is understood that the peace force would consist of troops from Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga.
"It is the news we have been waiting for. Sir Julius has stated that it depends on whether or not it is acceptable to all those involved. We have made it clear that this is the approach that Francis Ona [BIG president] will support. It is now time that the PNG government started to talk directly with us about this initiative", said Forster.
"We have constructive ideas on how to implement [the] initiatives; we are one of the various groups that the UN says PNG should be talking to. It is time to end the rhetoric and begin real dialogue, to work together to restore the human rights of all Bougainville people".
Forster said mechanisms for peace talks have already been established by the interim government.